HARLY JAE IS A CANADA BASED SLOW FASHION BRAND FOUNDED BY LAÏLA B. POTVIN.
Knowing the horrid conditions garment makers are subject to around the for the fast fashion world, Harly Jae founder Laïla B. Potvin knew that her brand was not going to be apart of that industry. With most fast fashion being thrown away after a few years it is so destructive to the environment. Harley Jae has stated "I didn't want any part in this". She ended up creating a slow fashion clothing brand which focuses on being ethically produced.
HOW DID YOU COME UP WITH YOUR BRAND NAME?
Harly Jae is a tweak of what should be “Jess on his Harley Davidson.” Jess is my dad. He passed away many years ago now but the lessons he has taught me live through what is my brand, Harly Jae.
HOW WOULD YOU DESCRIBE YOURSELF, WHATS AN INTERESTING FACT ABOUT YOU?
Weird? I am an over thinker always trying to juggle 100 things at a time. I am loyal, quirky and extremely driven. I am happiest when I feel inspired - by people, my surroundings, and beautiful things. I never watch the same movie twice.
IF YOU COULD WATCH ONLY ONE MOVIE FOR THE REST OF YOUR LIFE WHAT WOULD IT BE, WHY?
Funny how this relates to my interesting fact... Clearly I cannot answer this question!
IF YOU COULD BE REBORN IN A CERTAIN ERA WHICH ERA WOULD YOU CHOOSE? WHY?
The 60s-70s peace and love hippie era. This era aligns with my values, and the fashion is on point!
HOW WOULD DESCRIBE YOUR PERSONAL STYLE?
Feminine and vintage-inspired (the same as Harly Jae’s aesthetic).
DID YOU ATTEND UNIVERSITY, IF SO WHAT DID YOU STUDY?
I studied Fashion Marketing at Blanche Macdonald Centre and then went to Simon Fraser University to get my Bachelors in New Media and Communications.
My biggest advice is to be resourceful. It’s okay not to know everything about starting and running a business. Luckily, we live in a day and age where you can learn about pretty much anything from the comfort of your home. I have watched hours of online tutorials, that be related to building my own website to how to properly do my accounting.
It is not easy to set up a business on your own but doable if you put the right amount of effort. At first, you are lost and when you start getting the hang of it other things come up so you never feel in true control. It’s part of the game. Social media has been an enormous help for me. It’s the only form of marketing I have been using since I don’t have a ton of budget at the moment.
WHAT DROVE YOUR CAREER CHANGE FROM THE FAST PACE FASHION INDUSTRY TO SLOW FASHION?
Somewhere along my high school years but I was not serious about it until I enrolled in Fashion school. My values did not align with the traditional way of doing business in the fashion industry. After finishing my fashion marketing studies, something did not feel right. I could not see myself contributing to the harm the industry is making, hence why I continued my studies at SFU rather than getting a job right away. It was not an easy choice at the time, especially because slow fashion was not really a thing six years ago. I felt like my only option was to give up on my dream to have a career in fashion.
WHO INSPIRES YOU, 3 CREATIVES, DESIGNERS AND ARTISTS?
1. Photographer Carlota Guerrero who is pushing the boundaries of photography. I absolutely love everything she does.
2. Emily Weiss, founder and CEO of Glossier - a living proof that doing business differently can pay off big time.
3. Sarah Shabacon from Bohème Goods - I am a big vintage lover and she curates the best collections! She is also a branding machine.
WHAT IS ONE CHALLENGE YOU FACE BEING A DESIGNER, IS THERE ANYTHING YOUR DON'T LIKE ABOUT THE CREATIVE INDUSTRY?
This is more applicable to my personal situation. My biggest challenge is that I design with purpose. As I mentioned above, I want my pieces to make sense, to be versatile, and to be cherished for many years. This requires more planning and also means that I cannot design everything I would like to. Not at the moment.
DID YOU ALWAYS KNOW YOU WANTED TO OWN YOUR OWN BUSINESS AND WHAT INSPIRED YOU TO SET UP YOUR OWN COMPANY?
Nope- although I do feel like I should have always known! I like doing things my way and having the freedom to work from anywhere is very important to me. I want to be able to visit my family on the East Coast whenever I wish to!
I had been unhappy with my day job for a couple of months already, even though I had just started there. It was my first “big girl job,” and I already knew that the 9-5 life was not going to work for me. So I reconnected with Fashion and discovered a community of conscious fashion consumers who instantly inspired me to start building my own ethical closet. It’s during this process that I noticed a gap in the market. I could not find the clothing I liked to wear, so I designed it!
HOW IS YOUR PERSONALITY REFLECTED IN YOUR WORK?
I tend to overthink a lot, and I am also very logical. I like to think of my designs as “smart.” They can be worn from work to a night out, they stand out on their own and truly are timeless. That is a reflection of my personality and how I live my life. I like when things make sense. In terms of creativity, I design all our branding material as well so Harly Jae is a direct reflection of my aesthetic.
WHAT IS YOUR FAVOURITE DESIGN YOU HAVE PRODUCED?I love the Bardot jumpsuit! It’s sexy without being revealing. It enhances different body types, is versatile, and from a design standpoint, jumpsuits are really hard to get right, so I am proud that this first piece turned as well as it did!
HAS THERE BEEN A DEFINING MOMENT IN YOUR CAREER AS A DESIGNER?
Since Harly Jae is not even one year old, I would say that my most significant achievement has been the public’s reception of my clothing. I was also super happy to get wholesales account right away!
HAVE YOU HAD ANY OBSTACLES TO OVERCOME WHILST DESIGNING NEW PIECES?
Many! Haha. Getting the fits right, making sure the garments will look the same after wash, finding reliable fit models. It can take months to perfect a new piece, and that is certainly not something I had expected.
WHERE DO YOU SOURCE YOUR INSPIRATION WHEN DESIGNING?
Vintage fashion is my biggest inspiration. If you love thrifting, you know the feeling of pulling up a piece from the racks and thinking “wow, they don’t make clothes like this anymore.” That’s the biggest compliment you can give me when looking at Harly Jae pieces. Being inspired by past trends also helps me design pieces that won’t go out of style next season. Although I consider my aesthetic to be very current, it is not reflective of fad trends that will be out a couple of weeks after they made their entrance.
HAVE YOU GOT ANY TIPS WITH DEALING WITH CREATIVE BLOCKS?
When the creative juices are not flowing, I don’t force them. I do something else and get back to it when I am inspired.
WHERE DO YOU SOURCE YOUR FABRICS?
So far, I have sourced from two fabric suppliers in BC : Télio and
DO YOU EVER TRAVEL FOR INSPIRATION, WHERE IS THE BEST PLACE YOU HAVE VISITED?
I don’t travel for the sole purpose of inspiration (although that may be a new goal of mine ;)) but I am inspired everywhere I go. I recently was in Mexico, and I was inspired by all the colors you find there.
IF YOU WEREN’T DESIGNING WHAT WOULD YOU BE DOING?
I would be working in branding and social media. I love advising others on how to brand their business! I'm truly passionate about the topic, although I think I could use some of my own advice sometimes!
DO YOU THINK SOCIAL MEDIA PLATFORMS ARE A NECESSITY TO GET RECOGNITION AS A DESIGNER TODAY, DO YOU HAVE ANY OTHER FORMS OF PROMOTION?
They are, especially Instagram. And they are free, so we would be crazy not to use them! Media outreach, blog interviews and spotlights, influencers, and pop-up events. I did not have a launch party when Harly Jae launched last June - I kind of regret it!
HOW DO YOU REACH YOUR CLIENTS, CAN THEY SHOP ONLINE OR DO THEY COME INTO YOUR STUDIO?
They shop on my website, and my pieces are also carried in a few select boutiques. If a customer is local, I also offer the option to come by my studio.
IN 10 YEARS TIME WHAT WOULD YOU LIKE TO HAVE ACCOMPLISHED WITHIN YOUR FASHION BRAND?
I would like Harly Jae to be regarded as one of the leading made in Canada brands. I would like HJ to be sold in stores across Canada and the USA. I would like to be able to say that I have highly contributed to a better fashion industry and would hope that my first designs are still worn around the world! #timelessfashion
WHAT ADVICE CAN YOU GIVE TO CREATIVE WOMAN WHO WANT TO PURSUE A CAREER IN THE CREATIVE INDUSTRY, ANY WORDS OF INSPIRATION FOR ASPIRING DESIGNERS?
Just do it! Creativity is our greatest gift as human beings. I think it’s a shame that it goes undeveloped for most people. Go after your dream. What's the worst that can happen? Do you, stay true to yourself and your vision. The Internet has made it easier for people to start their own thing. There is a lot of competition out there. The only way to shine is to stay true to your aesthetic and vision.
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"Stay true to yourself and your vision. The Internet has made it easier for people to start their own thing. There is a lot of competition out there. The only way to shine is to stay true to your aesthetic and vision."
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LAST UPDATED: (29TH MARCH 2018)
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